The Pirates held a lead five times, but couldn’t hold onto it when it counted most as Alex Burmistrov scored in overtime, capping off a wild game to give the St. John’s IceCaps an 8-7 victory before 6,287 at Mile One Centre in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
The Pirates (1-2-1) have yet to closeout a game on the road this season when leading, and their lone victory at home required them come from behind after giving up a two-goal lead. Still, despite losing leads of 2-0, 4-2, 5-3, 6-5 and 7-6 to the IceCaps, Edwards saw more positives than negatives.
“We need to keep it in perspective right now,” he said. “We earned a point. We’re doing a lot of good things on the ice. We just have to clean some things up on defense. We like our competitive nature on the ice and we like how they are working hard, but we’re just not closing the deal.”
“We are a work in progress at the moment.”
Burmistrov gave the IceCaps its only lead of the game, but it was the one that mattered when he drilled a shot by Pirates’ goalie Chad Johnson just 1:03 into overtime for the victory.
“I felt like we played a pretty good road game,” Edwards said. “We gave up two or three more chances then we wanted to give up. It was a weird game because everything they put on net ended up in our net.”
The Pirates lead the AHL in scoring averaging 5.25 goals per game, but are last in AHL team defense by allowing an average of 6.00 per game to the opposition.
That’s certainly not what Edwards expected at the beginning of the season.
“I didn’t expect either side of the equation,” he said. “I didn’t expect us to be this leaky on defense and I didn’t expect us to score this much. We have to find a way to fix it without changing the offense.”
“We need to just clean up some of the defensive issues.”
The Pirates were led by Rob Klinkhammer who recorded a hat trick and two assists for a five-point night.
It was the first hat trick scored by a Pirate since Mark Mancari record one back on Jan. 23, 2011 when the franchise was affiliated with the Buffalo Sabres.
It only took Klinkhammer 33 seconds to begin the scoring for Portland when the puck, from Alexandre Bolduc’s attempt at a one-timer, came to him near the left post, giving the Pirates a 1-0 lead.
Klinkhammer assisted on the Pirates’ second goal as Evan Brophey scored his first as a member of the Pirates, hammering the rebound by IceCaps’ goalie Mark Dekanich at the 3:28 mark of the first period.
Spencer Machacek scored the first of his two goals on the night at the 11:39 mark of the second period, followed by former Pirate Derek Whitmore connecting with another former Pirate Jason King with 16 seconds remaining in the first period to even the score, 2-2.
The Pirates, once again, built a two-goal lead after forty minutes of play.
Klinkhammer scored his second goal of the night only 3:50 into the period, getting to the loose puck in the crease and shoveling it by Dekanich to put Portland out front, 3-2.
Andy Miele make it 4-2 for Portland with 5:59 remaining in the period as he trailed Chris Conner on a breakaway, driving the rebound by Dekanich, who looked incredible shaky the entire game.
The IceCaps pulled to within a goal, 4-3, after former Maine captain Will O’Neil found Jason Gregoire for a long stretch pass, springing him free on a breakaway, beating Pirates’ goalie Chad Johnson only 19 seconds after Miele’s goal.
With 2:12 remaining in the period, Chris Brown stepped out of the box after serving a two-minute penalty for hooking, picked up a feed from Klinkhammer for a breakaway goal, establishing the Pirates’ two-goal lead, 5-3.
It was a lead that Portland couldn’t hold as St. John’s – on power-play goals by Ben Maxwell and Eric O’Dell – scored twice less than two minutes into the third period to tie the game at 5-5.
That was enough for Edwards who opted to use his timeout and the Pirates responded as Bolduc scored his third goal of the season just seconds later at the 1:35 mark of the period.
That would end the night for Dekanich (22 saves/28 shots) as he was relieved in goal by Edward Pasquale.
St. John’s fed on that change seizing the momentum back as O’Dell recorded his second goal of the game only 49 seconds later.
Edwards though about changing Johnson who finished with 22 saves on 30 shots, for rookie Mark Visentin, but opted to stick with the veteran netminder.
“We couldn’t really fault Johnson (for the goals allowed),” said Edwards. “Yes, we would have liked for him to make save here or there, but we can’t sit there and say that they were horrible goals.”
“There were some other issues that we needed to think about,” Edwards added without wanting to elaborate.
Klinkhammer scored on Pasquale midway into the period to record the hat trick, but Machacek scored a shorthanded goal, the third given up by the Pirates this season, to send the game to overtime.
NOTES: Evan Bloodoff was assigned from the Portland Pirates to their ECHL affiliate, the Gwinnett Gladiators, by the Phoenix Coyotes. Bloodoff played in one game for the Pirates this season, going scoreless… Jordan Martinook is close to returning the lineup and could be available for the action as soon as Wednesday night against the St. John’s IceCaps.